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SRH vs KKR, IPL 2021 Talking Points: Eoin Morgan’s attacking brand of captaincy to the fore

Brief Scores: Kolkata Knight Riders187/6 in 20 overs (Nitish Rana 80, Rahul Tripathi 53; Rashid Khan 2-24, Mohammad Nabi 2-32) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad 177/5 in 20 overs (Manish Pandey 61*, Jonny Bairstow 55; Prasidh Krishna 2-35, Pat Cummins 1-30)by 10 runs.

Kolkata Knight Riders began with plenty of intent and firepower – something their skipper Eoin Morgan is known for – as the side got over the line by 10 runs against Sunrisers Hyderabad at the M A Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. Despite a slow start by Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana and Raahul Tripathi ensured that they got a competitive total on the board, and though the KKR spinners were taken apart by Jonny Bairtsow, they managed to hold on and register their first win on the board of the season. 

A number of tactical blunders by SRH, including sending Abdul Samad after Vijay Shankar, affected them, as they slumped to their third successive loss against the Knights in the Indian Premier League. KKR will not take on Mumbai Indians on Tuesday, while SRH will take the field against Royal Challengers Bangalore on April 14. Both games will be played at the Chepauk Stadium. 

Here are the talking points from the match: 

Nitish Rana and his unique trend 

Nitish Rana has three ducks in his last six IPL innings, but has an 80+ score on the other three occasions. On Sunday, the left-hander gave another glimpse of why he is one of the best uncapped players in the tournament, as he paced his knock to perfection and took apart the pacers. Against one of the best bowling attacks, the batsman started off with an aggressive intent as he smashed Sandeep Sharma for five fours in his first two overs. Despite Shubman Gill’s slow paced innings of 15 in 13 balls, Rana did not let the pressure mount as he kept playing his natural game, which allowed KKR to put a stand of 53 in 7 overs for the first wicket. 

He targeted the short boundaries, and though luck did favour him on a few occasions, his onslaught meant that the game was beyond SRH’s control by the 12th over. KKR had the worst stats in the first six overs last year, when they scored only 40.5 runs, and Rana’s approach is a testimony to the fact that the franchise aims to change their tactics this year. He eventually was out for 80 off 56 balls, just days after recovering from Covid-19. 

Rahul Tripathi lives up to his expectations 

Rahul Tripathi has often been misused by various franchise teams in the last few seasons of the IPL – including last year when he was sent to bat at number seven for KKR against Delhi Capitals. However, his best position has always been at the top and Morgan kept his faith in the youngster, as he sent him up at three after KKR had gotten off to a blistering start. 

He immediately sent Mohammad Nabi for a six over long off, and continued scoring runs at a rate faster than that of Rana’s. He smashed two fours and a six off Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the 15th over to bring up his sixth IPL half century in 28 balls. With Gill not the best accelerator, Tripathis’ form will be good news for the KKR team, who desperately needed an aggressor at the top. 

Backing Jonny Bairtsow over Kane Williamson pays off 

Jonny Bairtsow was dropped in the last few games of IPL 2020 with Wriddhiman Saha opening and Kane Williamson batting at three. Many would have expected the franchise to go in with the same combination against the Knight Riders, but they decided to bench the Kiwi skipper and play Bairstow instead. This year, Kane has played five international matches for New Zealand, scoring only 82 runs at an average of 16.4 with a strike rate of just 122.4. Moreover, he has hit only eight fours thus far, while Bairstow has been in phenomenal nick of late. 

The Englishman was in stellar form in the recent series against India, and had struck at over 137 in the T20 International series, and the move, thus, to persist with Bairstow seemed to be the right one. After SRH had lost skipper David Warner and Wriddhiman Saha early, Bairstow took over the charge, smashing a quick fifty as he threatened to take the game away on a two-paced wicket. 

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